City Paper is not for tourists
John Darnielle, the mastermind behind raconteur rockers the Mountain Goats, is at his best when he’s writing songs about people who aren’t him. Case in point: the unhappy north Florida homeowners the band sings about on its 2002 album Tallahassee. When his song’s characters look nothing like Darnielle, they’re murdered wrestlers and teenage acid pushers; when they do resemble the songwriter, the songs are about whether Darnielle’s alter ego drank a whole pot of coffee (seriously). So it’s a good sign that Sean, the reclusive protagonist of Darnielle’s debut novel Wolf in White Van, is nothing like his author. After an injury leaves him disfigured and living like a hermit, Sean designs a play-by-mail game about a dystopic future America. But as Sean’s game pulls in new players, things take an unexpected turn. The same lyricism found in Darnielle’s best songs is worked into the novel; expect to find some beauty amid the darkness. John Darnielle reads at 6:30 p.m. at Busboys and Poets Brookland, 625 Monroe St. NE. Free. (202) 636-3563. busboysandpoets.com.